Grandiose Publication

VALDOR the Younger (Jean)

Les Triomphes de Louis le Juste XIII. du nom, roy de France et de Navarre. Contenans les plus grandes actions où sa maiesté s’est trouvée en personne, représentées en figures aenigmatiques exposées par un poëme héroïque de CHARLES BEYS, & accompagnées de vers françois sous chaque figure, composez par P. de Corneille. Avec les portraits des rois, princes et généraux d’armées, qui ont assisté ou servy ce belliqueux Louis le Juste combattant; et leurs devises & expositions en forme d’éloges, par HENRY ESTIENNE, ecuyer, sieur des fossez, poëte & interprete du roy és langues grecque & latine. Ensemble le plan des villes, sieges et batailles, avec un abrégé de la vie de ce grand monarque, par RENÉ BARRY, conseiller du roy, & historiographe de sa majesté. Le tout traduit en latin par le R.P. NICOLAI … Ouvrage entrepris & finy par JEAN VALDOR / Ludovici Iusti tertii decimi… Triumphalia monumenta [...].

Paris, en l’Imprimerie Royale, Antoine Estienne, 1649.

[= The Triumphs of Louis XIII, the Just by name, king of France and Navarre: Containing the most extraordinary deed where His Majesty was found in person, represented in enigmatic figures explained by a heroic poem by Charles Beys, and accompanied by French verses underneath each figure, composed by P. de Corneille. With portraits of kings, princes and generals who served or assisted in the wars fought by Louis the Just. Their devices and explanations are in the form of eloges by Henry Estienne, squire, sieur of Fossez, poet and interpreter to the King in Greek and Latin. Together with the plan of the cities, sieges, and battles, there is an overview of this great monarch’s life by René Barry, counsellor to the King and historiographer to His Majesty. All were translated into Latin by R.P Nicolai, a doctor at the Sorbonne and the Faculty of Paris and the first regent of the remarkable Convent of the Jacobines. The work was undertaken and finished by Jean Valdor, knight and calcographer of the king, all at the command of His Majesty].

Three parts in one volume folio, late 19th-century quarter calf over marbled boards, spine richly gilt with raised bands and two lettering pieces, all edges gilt. 2 title pages (in French and Latin) with fine printer’s woodcut mark, (62) pp., 87 pp., 142 pp., 110 pp. (= 102 pp.), (8) pp. A few pagination errors.

Splendid illustration copper-engraved by the royal engraver Jean Valdor after B. Flémalle and Charles Errard comprising elaborate headpieces, decorated capital letters, tailpieces, 35 plates of emblematic figures in the text, 60 full-page plates of allegorical scenes and portraits (of which the two frontispieces) and 51 double-page plates of detailed maps and plans of battlefields. Complete.

First Edition of an ambitious emblematic history of the reign of King Louis XIII of France.

The book was published six years after his death (1601-1643). Composed to pay tribute to and glorify his reign, it was a huge undertaking and involved more than six named collaborators. The work includes an account of the life and military victories of Louis XIII, emblematic portraits of his allies and military leaders, and a series of detailed maps and plans of battlefields. The central section is dedicated to twenty unsigned engravings that illustrate his major military campaigns, each accompanied by six lines of verse [in first edition] composed by the famous dramatist Pierre Corneille and a longer poem by Charles Beys, a well-known playwright and poet. The text and engravings are packed with allusions to heroes from Greek and Roman literature and mythology, ranging from Aeneas to Hercules. This superb volume had a clear dual function: while it offered a factual history of the reign, it was also clearly intended to make a statement about the glory of France. It stands as a splendid testimony of pride in nationhood, expressed indirectly using praise of the monarch. It is not coincidental that it was commissioned by the King himself, as we are told in the title. For maximum accessibility, the work is wholly bilingual, composed in French and translated into Latin. Yet, “Les triomphes” was also written as a testament to the artistic and creative powers of its principal author and publisher, Jean Valdor (1616-1675), an engraver who trained with the printmaker Wenceslas Hollar. The book’s title page identifies Valdor as the “calligrapher of the King”, a title he earned from Louis XIV through his work on this project, and attributes the allegorical compositions throughout the work to Valdor’s hand. Yet, scholars have cast doubt upon Valdor’s primary role in the book’s creation. As Anthony Blunt writes, “the share of Jean Valdor in the production of the book remains uncertain… The claim that the engraved compositions were ‘invented’ by him probably means nothing more than that he suggested the subjects and possibly gave some indication about how they should be treated. Whether he did more must remain doubtful” (Blunt, 161). Pierre-Jean Mariette, the 18th-century connoisseur and author of a dictionary of artists, also questioned Valdor’s creative authorship. Mariette writes, “in 1649 Valdor produced the book the Triumphs of Louis Juste, for the execution of which he borrowed different hands, as many designers as engravers, but he wanted it to be known that the work was entirely his own, and he claimed all the credit” (Mariette, iv, 365). In many of the text’s verses, Valdor appears as a character alongside the King. The fact that these poems appear repeatedly throughout the text and from different authors suggests that Valdor may, at the very least, have exercised some influence over their content. Thus, “Les Triomphes” should not only be seen solely as a vehicle for the King’s aggrandisement, but also as a platform for Valdor’s own aspirations and a monument to his own ambitions. Indeed, Valdor’s efforts were a success. After “Les Triomphes” was completed, Louis XIV knighted him (Festival Books from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library).

A very good copy.

Ref. Brunet, V, 1033 / Cicognara, 1452 / Picot, Bibliographie cornélienne, 195 / Praz, 575 / Renouard, Annales de l’imprimerie des Estiennes, p. 224, 4 / Alison Saunders, The Seventeen-century French Emblem, pp. 118-119 / Tchmerzine, IV, p. 176.